*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
On the 50th Anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom…
House Democratic Leader Tracy Heard Carried on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy by Launching a Food Drive for Poverty Stricken Janitors
COLUMBUS, OH—This afternoon, on the 50th Anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom, State Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard (D) launched a food drive in support of Columbus janitors who plan to strike for their right to fight for good jobs. As part of the 50th anniversary, Heard and the Columbus janitors rang bells at 4:04pm, the time Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have A Dream” speech ended, to carry on MLK Jr.’s legacy—part of today’s national bell-ringing ceremonies.
“Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. And that dream was that in our country, if you work hard, you should be able to provide for your family. But that is simply not true for thousands of low wage workers in Columbus. It is wrong for someone to work full time and still not make enough to put food on the table. That is not the America Dr. King dreamed of 50 years ago. I am standing with the janitors for the right to fight for good jobs and the right to fight for a better future for all of us,” stated House Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard.
While the janitors were working to improve wages and benefits, some employers responded with threats and intimidation, forcing their janitors to call a strike to put an end to such retaliation.
“This was a very hard decision for us to make, but we are doing what we have to do,” says Philip Rudolph, a janitor at the Lazarus building in downtown Columbus. “We are standing up for a wage that will allow us to support our families, and in response we are being punished and harassed. So we decided together that we have to stand up for our families.”
The food drive will be held throughout downtown Columbus with donation bins placed outside the downtown buildings where janitors work.
Downtown janitors clean the offices of some of the most profitable corporations and high profile buildings in Columbus—such as Nationwide Insurance, Huntington Bank and the Lazarus Building—but are paid about $18,000 on average. Although Columbus’s job growth remains strong, the poverty rate in our city has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. As economic mobility in Columbus becomes progressively unachievable, janitors are pulling together to fight for a path out of the cycle of poverty for working people.
SEIU Local 1 unites 50,000 property service workers in the central United States, including janitors, security officers and residential doormen. Together we work to build strength for all working people, on the job and in our communities.